Voters must accept some responsibility for a mistake that tainted about 366 ballots cast in the Republican primary in southwest Salt Lake County state senate district, according to the attorney representing the declared winner.
In arguments to the state Supreme Court on Monday, attorney Bob Copier said voters need to be informed enough to know who the candidates are in their legislative districts.Some voting booths in at least six polling districts contained the wrong voting machines during the Sept. 8 primary. Those machines asked Republicans to choose between two state Senate candidates on the east side of the county instead of between incumbent State Sen. Dix McMullin and Brent Richards, a Riverton City Councilman.
Richards was declared the winner by 196 votes, but county officials say about 366 people voted in the district with the wrong machines before the error was discovered.
However, hardly any voter noticed the errors. The Senate district covers the Bluffdale, Riverton, South Jordan and West Jordan areas.
"Voting is a right that has duties that come with it," Copier, who is defending Richards, told Supreme Court justices. He said the mistake didn't affect the election's out-come.
"The only thing we're dealing with are those ballots of people who, for some reason, didn't realize who their senator was and who the candidates were," he said.
Copier asked the court to dismiss a claim by McMullin's attorney, Jim Jardine, who wants the court to annul the election. Copier also believes the problem should be decided by the State Senate or by a lower, district court and that county officials should be involved.
But Jardine said voters who used the wrong voting machines were disenfranchised. He represents four voters in addition to McMullin.
Jardine said it would be impossible for him to prove McMullin actually won the election. To do so, he would have to interview the 366 people who voted and violate their constitutional right to a secret ballot. Many of those people may have voted for Democrats, and many of them may have chosen voting booths that had the correct machines.
"Our whole argument is the public was wronged, and they can't have confidence in the outcome of the election," he said.
Justices are expected to rule soon on Copier's motion to dismiss the case. Both candidates hope to resolve the matter soon, so they can concentrate on the general election in November.